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Secure U.S. Borders and Approaches

Secure borders are essential to our national sovereignty.

Border Patrol vehicle next to a fenceManaging the flow of people and goods into the United States is critical to maintaining our national security. Illegal aliens compromised the security of our Nation by illegally entering the United States or overstaying their authorized period of admission. Illegal aliens who enter the United States and those who overstay their visas disregard our national sovereignty, threaten our national security, compromise our public safety, exploit our social welfare programs, and ignore lawful immigration processes. As a result, DHS is implementing a comprehensive border security approach to secure and maintain our borders, prevent and intercept foreign threats so they do not reach U.S. soil, enforce immigration laws throughout the United States, and properly administer immigration benefits.

The Department of Homeland Security's border security responsibilities focus on four goals:

Secure and Manage Air, Land, and Maritime Borders

The security of our Nation depends on operational control over air, land, and maritime borders to prevent terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, and other threat actors from exposing the United States to malicious and illicit activity originating from foreign sources. Sophisticated smuggling enterprises, elaborate border tunnels, go-fast vessels, and other elusive travel methods allow illegal aliens and transnational criminal organizations to evade border enforcement along the United States’ nearly 6,000 miles of land border and 95,000 miles of shoreline.

To combat these threats, DHS is enhancing border security between designated ports of entry using physical barriers and technological innovations that deny illegal border-crossers unobstructed access to the United States. Additionally, DHS is improving its situational awareness of the land and maritime domains and increasing personnel and assets to stop, interdict, and arrest illegal aliens attempting to enter the United States. Together, these initiatives prevent infiltration of the United States between designated ports of entry and crack down on illegal immigration to the United States.

Meanwhile, fraudulent documentation and deceptive travel practices impede our operators from identifying and validating international travelers arriving at designated ports of entry and preclearance facilities. DHS is taking specific measures to positively identify, screen, and vet individuals to prevent potential known or suspected terrorists from traveling to the United States using evasive travel methods. DHS is also combating systemic transnational criminal activity to eliminate the flow of narcotics, crime, and violence into the United States, while intercepting outbound illicit profits. This starts at the land and maritime ports of entry, where DHS is vigilantly inspecting inbound cargo. By reducing the supply of narcotics that enter the United States and preventing human smuggling and trafficking enterprises, DHS is preventing the existence of illicit American markets.

Cockpit of a CBP helicopter

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Extend the Reach of U.S. Border Security

Regional instability and foreign conflicts have endangered the global travel system and significantly increased the prevalence of illegal travel to the United States, posing a significant threat to homeland security from abroad. In particular, foreign terrorist fighters departing conflict zones may attempt to exploit pathways into the United States to continue their terrorist intentions. Additionally, transnational criminal organizations have capitalized on economically depressed regions with limited law enforcement and security capabilities to expand their operations for trafficking and smuggling illegal drugs, contraband, and illegal aliens into the United States. Beyond these threat actors, DHS is confronted with the threat of mass migration movements across land and maritime domains from unstable neighboring regions.

DHS is directly addressing these threats by extending the reach of U.S. border security using forward-deployed border security operations, such as cutter patrols, customs and immigration investigations, and travel security assets, combined with international partnerships around the world. In partnership with other federal agencies, DHS is expanding efforts to collect and analyze advance passenger information, strengthen the known and suspected terrorist Watchlist, share information with international partners, and help international partners enhance their screening and vetting capabilities to identify known and suspected terrorists. DHS is also investigating and dismantling transnational criminal organizations to eliminate long-term threats to the Homeland. Together, these initiatives enable the United States to extend the security of its borders, intercepting foreign threats long before they reach U.S. soil.

Coast Guard personnel offload seized narcotics

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Enforce U.S. Immigration Laws

Enforcement of our Nation’s immigration laws is critically important to the national security and public safety of the United States. Illegal aliens who are present in the United States blatantly undermine the integrity of our immigration system and disregard our federal laws. Moreover, many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their authorized period of admission present a potential threat to national security and public safety. Meanwhile, many aliens who commit crimes within the United States remain in American communities solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation. It is DHS’s responsibility to faithfully execute and enforce the immigration laws of the United States in a manner that eliminates these abuses.

DHS investigates immigration violators who fraudulently obtain visas to the United States, fail to maintain their authorized status, or otherwise violate the terms of their lawful admission pursuant to federal laws. DHS is improving its ability to maintain positive identification of individuals throughout the immigration and travel process using both biographic and biometric information to identify individuals who overstay their authorized period of admission. In particular, DHS is expanding its screening policies for biometric screening at border entry/exit and evaluations for extensions of status. DHS is also creating a culture of compliance to prevent employers from hiring illegal alien labor that displaces American labor by utilizing a multi-prong approach, including enforcement, compliance, and outreach. Through these initiatives, DHS is exercising all appropriate and lawful means to identify, locate, and detain aliens unlawfully present within the United States and facilitate their timely repatriation.

ICE officer on a repatriation flight

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Administer Immigration Benefits to Advance the Security and Prosperity of the Nation

Long-standing shortcomings throughout all phases of the visa issuance and travel process have enabled individuals to exploit the Nation’s immigration system and gain unlawful access to the United States. In particular, the U.S. immigration system remains vulnerable to fraudulent claims for asylum and refugee status and exploitation of expedited travel programs. Meanwhile, immigration policies have prioritized foreign labor over American workers and the best interests and economic needs of the United States.

DHS has aggressively confronted these flaws and is now implementing immigration laws consistent with their original intent. DHS is more thoroughly screening and vetting individuals seeking immigration benefits and seeking entry to the United States, ensuring immigration benefits comport with legislative intent and emphasize American economic needs, and eliminating opportunities for systematic abuse of the U.S. immigration system at the expense of the American people. Pursuant to the Executive Order 13788: “Buy American and Hire American,” DHS is also working to ensure that American workers are better protected. Together, these policies will reduce the “pull factors” from years past that encouraged illegal immigration and compel foreign nationals and the businesses that employ foreign nationals on employment-based visas to comply with federal immigration laws and procedures.

Statue of Liberty

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Last Published Date: July 5, 2019

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